SIFF – the Sharjah International Film Festival for Children and Youth – is a magpie favourite among highly-targeted UAE festivals, thanks partly to its openness in selection but mostly because of the unselfconscious enthusiasm of the audiences. The ninth SIFF is back in person after a couple of online-only editions, and it’s growing in stature in not in overall size; for this year there were apparently more than 1,700 submissions from 89 countries, all films geared to young audiences.
In the event the official selection run to 100 films (from 43 countries) in seven categories. That’s down on the 139 shown in 2019, the last pre-Covid edition of SIFF. But al least “our curated selection of films celebrates diverse global voices through the universal lens of childhood,” as Sheikha Jawaher Bint Abdullah Al Qasimi, SIFF’s director, said in a press statement.
The categories are all competitive, though the prizes aren’t enormous – AED 10,000 for each of them apart from Student films (AED 7,000) and the Child and youth-made section (AED 5,000). Visibility and the chance to pick a distribution deal would seem to be as important for the filmmakers.
Volume-wise, Animation dominates with 29 films. The selection of 17 Feature films is more than double last year’s offering. There are 16 Student films – often the most interesting of the selections – mostly from France. The Child and youth-made section, for films directed and made by a child between 6 and 18 years, has a dozen selections; another 12 are Shorts from the GCC (in past years this selection was limited to the UAE, but expanding the geographical remit means that for SIFF 2022 they come primarily from Saudi Arabia). Seven Documentaries and another seven International short films make up the official selection for the year.
SIFF is at the Al Jawaher Reception & Convention Centre, opposite Sharjah Airport, from 10-15 October. The schedule and prices haven’t yet been published – check the website for updates – but there’s usually an early start, child-friendly programme lengths and finish times, and modestly priced tickets.